Backpacks are one of the most underrated tools for people. They come in a wide range of styles and colors so we can use them for various reasons. Basically, there are more similar to a functional adventure purse.
The right one can ease your life tremendously, but you need to know how to pick the right backpack based on your plans. It can be tempting to walk into a store and select the most visually attractive gear. Just because it’s your favorite color doesn’t that it will be the best choice for what you need.
Suitable backpacks are essential for so many reasons. When they fit well, they limit the possibility of unnecessary injury or discomfort. No one wants the pain to take them away from having fun.
Those with good designs have all the features that you need. For example, those with dogs would benefit from having a daypack with an external mesh pouch to keep the, uh—smelly stuff OUT of the main compartment after you pick up their business. For some, this might mean special padding for extra comfort or the correct type of pockets.
High-quality materials are essential as well. You don’t want to spend money on a backpack only to have it start to come undone by the end of the year. Durable materials and a great design help you carry what you need, keeping your items safe.
If you only need a backpack for school or work, there’s no need to splurge on a 65L pack with all the bells and whistles. Some bags are still rugged-looking but are a better size for utilizing around town. These also have better features for things like a laptop and having quick access to miscellaneous items.
Likewise, it won’t be helpful to try to stuff a weekend camping trip’s worth of supplies into a backpack that’s sized appropriately for a high school student. Larger packs can be pricey, but they are worth the investment. You’ll need the extra space and features when you are miles outside of the nearest town.
Making sure your backpack fits well is essential. You don’t want to be left with any back pain after you use it. There are many different factors to consider when finding a properly fitting backpack.
Most backpacks, particularly the larger ones for overnight trips, have built-in frames to them. These add a little weight, but they are also beneficial because they provide extra support and ventilation (so all your back sweat can evaporate away). There are backpacks with external frames, but these are bulky, heavier, and look clumsy.
When shopping around for a pack, it’s worth it to shop for outdoor backpack brands in person at a store with knowledgeable staff. They can measure your torso length to help you find a properly fitting one.
While in-store, you should also stuff the backpack completely full (ideally with heavy items,) so you get an idea of how comfortable it is to wear while moving. It will also help you feel if the backpack is stable, or if it gets excessively wobbly or top-heavy when filled.
Another thing to look for when shopping around for backpacks is if they have hip and shoulder padding. Most backpacks have these features, but not all are created equal. This will be evident when you add weight to the backpack and walk around the store.
With all the sizes available, how do you know exactly what size you need? This will depend on whether you are a light packer and what precisely you are using it for.
Small backpacks have a volume of under 30L (liters). These are perfect for casual use, like bringing a laptop to a coffee shop to work or heading to class. If you have an overnight trip, you can get by with using one this size to pack your clothes and essentials. Minimalist packers can use these for weekend trips.
Medium backpacks are around 30 to 60L. This is the most popular size that you’ll find in outdoor stores. If you have a weekend trip, you’ll have plenty of space in these to pack all your essential and “just in case” items.
Larger backpacks are over 60L in volume. These are the giant packs that you see experienced backpackers use. They are larger enough to carry all your items like a tent, sleeping bag, food, clothes, and supplies.
Prioritize what features you need before you pick one that’s your favorite color. Functionality is essential for you to have space for what you need and to be able to quickly get to those items when in a rush.
One of the more noticeable features of a backpack is how many compartments or pockets it has. The more you’ll be doing, the more you want. For minimal use, it’s best to have at least one main compartment with 2 to 3 small pockets. It’s a pain in the butt to try to fetch something as mundane as lip balm from the main section. Having multiple pockets on the outer side of the pack helps store things like a phone, camera, compass, utility knife, charger, or water bottle, depending on what you’re using it for.
Another factor to consider when figuring out how to pick the right backpack based on your plans is how accessible the internal compartments are. Most backpacks are only top loading. For day trips or casual use, this is perfectly fine. If you plan to go camping with your pack, you should strongly consider backpacks that also have zippers on the side or bottom. This makes it so much easy to access things like flip-flops, a towel, or a change of clothes without having to empty out your items.
When comparing different styles, you’ll find a ton more differences between backpacks. Things like an internal sleeping bag compartment aren’t necessary if you only get a pack for work. For a casual camper, you probably won’t need a bag with a ton of loops and daisy chains on the outside; these are useful for multi-night backpackers, though. Some backpacks have straps to help tighten the bag, making it convenient for stuffing it into the overhead compartment on a plane.
Finally, all packs should have some degree of water resistance to them. They don’t need to be completely waterproof, but you’ll never know where you’ll be when it starts to drizzle. A rainfly would be worth it for those wanting to backpack, as you don’t want to get your change of clothes or sleeping bag wet.
No matter your needs, shopping for the right backpack takes some time but will pay off down the road.
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